The Virginia Tech Hokies headed out west for a four-game series in Reno against Nevada after starting the season 4-0 with a sweep of USC Upstate and a win over Marshall. The Hokies had gotten off to just about an ideal start through their first four games and their strong start continued this past weekend with another great performance in a weekend series away from Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech won three out of four games out west in Reno over Nevada which included an incredible 24-run offensive outburst on Sunday led by a three home run, 9 RBI performance from Rahiem Cooper that led to Cooper receiving some national honors. Virginia Tech’s offense had another big weekend while the Hokies’ pitching had a so-so weekend followed by another strong offensive performance at home on Tuesday against Radford
With that said, here’s our recap of the four games from Reno this weekend and the home game against Radford.
Game 1: Virginia Tech 8, Nevada 7
Virginia Tech opened the series by surviving a ninth inning rally from Nevada to get a one-run lead to extend their undefeated start to 5 with an eighth inning two-run home run from Mac Caples helping push the Hokies over the top to victory. The win was a solid start to the weekend in Reno for the Hokies, but was the first of a long series opening day with the doubleheader moved from Saturday to Friday.
Caples had the big two-run home run while Nick Anderson had another strong day at the plate going 2-for-4 with a home run and 2 RBIs while Ryan Tufts also had a big day as the VT shortstop went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs. Jack Owens had another solid day in the leadoff spot going 2-for-4 plus a walk while Tom Stoffel went 1-for-5 with a two-run single in this game.
Packy Naughton had a solid start giving up only 2 earned runs in 5.1 innings while striking out 5 while Kit Scheetz came in and pitched well through the eighth only giving up a solo home run before struggling in the ninth and being credited with 5 earned runs against him in 2.2 innings. Aaron McGarity had a wild pitch that brought in a run, but stepped up to stop the Nevada comeback and get the save to get the Hokies the 8-7 win as McGarity seems set to be the closer despite some talk that he could move back into the rotation this season.
This game was a just a primer for how the Hokies are definitely built around their offense while looking for enough pitching to keep everything together which they got in this game from Naughton for 5.1 innings.
Game 2: Nevada 7, Virginia Tech 4
Virginia Tech got themselves in a hole early and were never able to even tie once Nevada took a 3-0 lead in the second inning on their way to a 7-4 victory over the Hokies in the second game of the doubleheader. The loss ended the Hokies’ five-game winning streak to start the season, but those streaks are hard to keep going.
Virginia Tech’s offense was slowed some in this game with only 9 hits including seven from three players with Jack Owens having a great game in the leadoff spot going 3-for-4. Ryan Tufts had a two-run home run while both Nick Anderson and Garrett Hudson both went 2-for-4 with Hudson having a RBI and Tom Stoffel had a solo home run in this game.
Joey Sullivan had a lot of unearned runs in his last start, but this time was different as Sullivan gave up six earned runs on 8 hits and 5 walks in 5.1 innings as Sullivan may start to have some struggles keeping his job in the weekend rotation. Meanwhile, Paul Hall Jr. and Chris Monaco had a solid job out of the bullpen with the pair only giving up 1 run in 2.2 innings with Hall having 2 strikeouts in his 1.2 innings of work.
Game 3: Virginia Tech 8, Nevada 5
The Hokies bounced back from their first loss of the season on Saturday quite well as they beat Nevada 8-5 to move to 6-1 on the season led by a strong performance from Jack Owens who went 4-for-5 with 1 home run and 3 RBIs along with Owens having a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth inning followed by a Ryan Tufts solo home run to put the game out of reach.
Owens wasn’t the only Hokie hitter to do well on Saturday as Sam Fragale went 3-for-5 with a solo home run while Ryan Tufts 2-for-5 with a solo home run as previously mentioned. Matt Dauby had his best offensive game of his season as he went 3-for-4 with 1 RBI while Rahiem Cooper went 2-for-4 and both Tom Stoffel and Nick Anderson drove in a run.
After a strong opening weekend performance, Andrew McDonald wasn’t bad in this game going 5.2 innings and giving up 4 earned runs on 7 hits and 4 walks with 4 strikeouts. Aaron McGarity got the win after getting 5 outs to seal the deal while Graham Seitz was solid in 1.2 innings of work out of the bullpen after McDonald only giving up 1 run. Kit Scheetz also came in but only for one batter in which he gave up a walk.
Game 4: Virginia Tech 24, Nevada 10
In what looked like a football score, Virginia Tech’s offense had a huge game as the Hokies blew out Nevada 24-10 in what was not a great day for those who are fans of great pitching. Rahiem Cooper was the star of this game having one of the best offensive performances probably in VT baseball history as Cooper went 3-for-6 with 3 home runs including two grand slams and 9 RBIs in total.
Cooper wasn’t the only with a big offensive day as Sam Fragale went 3-for-4 with a home run and 3 RBIs while Ryan Tufts went 3-for-7 with a home run and 3 RBIs. Mac Caples came in off the bench and went 2-for-3 with a solo home run while Grant Maiorana had 2 RBIs off the bench and Matt Dauby and Garrett Hudson both also drove in a run with Hudson coming off the bench as well in this game.
Nick Anderson also had a big day going 3-for-5 at the plate with 2 RBIs while pitching 6 innings and only giving up 3 earned runs on 5 hits and 4 walks as Anderson seems to be making a solid case to be a regular weekend starter. The bullpen struggled as Tim Salvadore failed to get an out and was credited with giving up 3 earned runs while Chris Monaco closed the game out but gave up 4 earned runs on 5 hits in 3 innings.
Virginia Tech 9, Radford 7
The Virginia Tech Hokies took care of business yesterday against the Radford Highlanders, beating them 9-7 to go to 8-1 on the season led by a high-scoring offense that has scored 7 or more runs in eight of their nine games. However, the Hokies made have suffered a big loss as Sam Fragale had to leave the game early with an injury to which the extent of it is currently unknown.
Ryan Tufts and Tom Stoffel both went 3-for-5 with one RBI as Tufts also had a solo home run in this game while Joe Freiday Jr. had a three-run home run that made a big difference in this game. Freshman JD Mundy came in for Fragale and hit the ball well going 2-for-3 with his first career solo home run while Stevie Mangrum and Rahiem Cooper both drove in a run in this game.
Connor Coward went 4.2 innings giving up 4 runs (3 earned) on 10 hits before Kit Scheetz came in for 3 innings giving up 2 unearned runs on 2 hits and 3 walks on his way to earning his second win of the season. Graham Seitz then came up and gave up 1 run on 1 hit and one walk but also got an out to send it to the ninth where Aaron McGarity got his third save of the year which included 2 strikeouts while only giving up 1 hit.
1. Virginia Tech has found themselves a great table-setting top of the order with Ryan Tufts and Jack Owens.
Jack Owens has gotten off to a great start this season hitting .436 with an on-base percentage of .488 while also scoring 11 runs which is third on the team and is followed by an even better on-base guy in Ryan Tufts who leads the Hokies with a .472 batting average, .578 on-base percentage, and 14 runs.
The duo of Owens and Tufts at the top of the order has set up Virginia Tech’s strong middle of the order well and is a big reason why Virginia Tech has gotten off to such a strong offensive start with 3 games with at least 8 runs this past weekend in Reno. If Owens and Tufts can keep being this productive in setting the table, the Hokies will cause more problems than expected.
2. Joey Sullivan likely is in danger of keeping his weekend rotation job.
Joey Sullivan has struggled so far this season with 14 runs and 6 earned runs given up so far in 8.1 innings over his first two games with errors likely saving his ERA from being higher. With Binghamton this weekend at home, it’ll be important for Sullivan to pitch much better or he may lose his weekend starting spot especially with Connor Coward pitching well during the mid-week games and ACC series being usually three games with Packy Naughton, Nick Anderson, and Andrew McDonald all doing better right now.
3. Rahiem Cooper has locked down the center fielder job.
Rahiem Cooper had a career game this weekend with 2 grand slams, 3 total home runs, and 9 RBIs this past Sunday, but Cooper has been solid overall with no errors so far and has seemed to lock down the starting center field job as Cooper has started all nine games for the Hokies so far. Cooper may be at the bottom of the order for the Hokies, but Cooper has definitely earned himself the starting center field job over Mac Caples and any other challenger.